Update: April 16, 2020 (5:15 PM ET): Despite the Keep Americans Connected Pledge developed and promoted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), several US telecom companies are terminating phone and internet access for unemployed residents across the country. NBC News reports that many Americans have received threatening notices, spontaneous terminations, and outstanding fines to reinstate terminated services.
Verizon and T-Mobile spokesmen responded by saying customers need to manually reach out to seek relief. So, if you are struggling to pay these bills thanks to the pandemic, make sure to get in contact with your internet and phone providers as soon as possible.
Original: March 13, 2020 (3:00 PM ET): Today, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai announced the Keep Americans Connected Pledge amid the current coronavirus pandemic. According to The Verge, this pledge is a new telecom industry measure developed to prevent potentially abusive US internet business practices.
For the next 60 days, the FCC is asking companies to refrain from handing out late fees or terminating connectivity for citizens and small business owners suffering from adverse economic effects due to the coronavirus outbreak. The pledge also wants to open access to public Wi-Fi hotspots to those who may need them across the country.
“As the coronavirus outbreak spreads and causes a series of disruptions to the economic, educational, medical, and civic life of our country, it is imperative that Americans stay connected,” Pai said in a statement. “Broadband will enable them to communicate with their loved ones and doctors, telework, ensure their children can engage in remote learning, and — importantly — take part in the ‘social distancing’ that will be so critical to limiting the spread of this novel coronavirus.”
Pai claims nearly every major US company in the industry has already committed to the pledge. Some of these companies include AT&T, Charter, CenturyLink, Comcast, Cox, Sonic, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon.
Though this is excellent news for the American public, it’s fairly ironic given Pai’s stance on net neutrality. In recent years, Pai and other members of the FCC have adamantly fought against net neutrality. Now, the newly announced Keep Americans Connected Pledge effectively institutes many of those same principles, albeit only for 60 days.
While it’s unfortunate something like the coronavirus pandemic had to happen for some members of the FCC to see the value in these net neutrality ideals, this pledge is a much welcome economic measure during this confusing time.